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Lite Lunch: Janice Nimura – The Doctors Blackwell

March 7, 2023 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

The Charleston Library Society welcomes New York Times Bestseller and Pulitzer Prize Finalist to discuss her recent powerhouse biography, The Doctors Blackwell: How Two Pioneering Sisters Brought Medicine to Women – And Women to Medicine.

Tickets for this Lite Lunch are $25 for members and $35 guest. All tickets include a boxed lunch.

To purchase tickets, click here or call 843-723-9912.

“Deftly, with a keen eye, Janice P. Nimura has resurrected Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell in all their feisty, thrilling, trailblazing splendor.”―Stacy Schiff

The world recoiled at the notion of a woman doctor, yet Elizabeth Blackwell persisted―in 1849, she became the first woman in America to receive an MD. Her achievement made her an icon―“I am convinced that a new & nobler era is dawning, for Medicine,” she wrote―but her sister Emily, eternally eclipsed, was the more brilliant physician. Together they founded the first hospital staffed entirely by women, in New York City.

Both sisters were tenacious and visionary, but their convictions did not always align with the emergence of women’s rights―or with each other. “Doubt is disease,” Elizabeth insisted. They prevailed against fierce resistance from the male establishment, moving among Britain, France, and America during a tumultuous time of scientific discovery and civil war. This major new biography celebrates two complicated pioneers who exploded the limits of possibility. As Elizabeth predicted, “a hundred years hence, women will not be what they are now.”



“Enthralling…Nimura, by digging into [the Blackwells’] deeds and their lives, finds those discrepancies and idiosyncrasies that yield a memorable portrait. The Doctors Blackwell also opens up a sense of possibility — you don’t always have to mean well on all fronts in order to do a lot of good.” –Jennifer Szalai, New York Times

“[A] richly detailed and propulsive biography….Nimura doesn’t strain to fit the sisters into the narrow shape allowed to feminist pioneers, as either virtuous role models or “badass” rebels against society. Instead, they emerge as spiky, complicated human beings, who strove and stumbled toward an extraordinary achievement, and then had to learn what to do with it.” –Joanna Scutts, New York Times Book Review

“The Doctors Blackwell is best on the fascinating and harrowing history of modern medicine….[Nimura] is a close and delightful observer of [the Blackwells’] world.” –The New Yorker

“The Doctors Blackwell not only testifies to Elizabeth and Emily’s iron determination but also chronicles evolving medical practices. Nimura places the sisters within the broad intellectual context of their time, creating an important and engaging history lesson.” –NPR


Janice P. Nimura received a Public Scholar Award from the National Endowment for the Humanities in support of her work on The Doctors Blackwell, a New York Times bestseller and a finalist for the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in biography. Her previous book, Daughters of the Samurai: A Journey from East to West and Back, was a New York Times Notable book in 2015. Her essays and book reviews have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles TimesSmithsonianThe Rumpus, and LitHub, among other publications.

“The one thing I know I’ll never be is a historian,” she told her college guidance counselor in 1988. She thought she wanted to be a doctor, but life intervened: she majored in English at Yale, worked in publishing, moved to Japan with her Tokyo-born husband, and completed an M.A. in East Asian studies at Columbia upon their return to her native New York. She grew into an understanding that history is made of stories and fell in love with archival treasure-hunting, especially when it led to the forgotten lives of border-crossing nineteenth-century women. Her first book grew out of her personal interest in the earliest encounters between Japan and the United States. In her latest project she circles back to her first interest in medicine, in the context of her work in women’s history.


March 7, 2023
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm


Charleston Library Society
164 King Street
Charleston, SC 29401 United States
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